John A. Braun
Warm weather and more sunshine draw the leaves of the trees out from their winter nap. They soon soak up the sunlight, allowing the trees to grow wider and taller. The tree we want so desperately will get larger, but we must wait for the slow process of growth. In a world where we want everything instantaneously, impatience nibbles away at our resolve to wait.
Yet we know about the slow process of growth in our own families. Children enter our lives as little babies and slowly grow to adults. I think we sometimes become impatient with their growth, especially when they do not grow spiritually, emotionally, or intellectually as we want. But growth does not happen quickly or even in a straight line. Ups and downs, advances and retreats, become chapters in any kind of growth. It takes time to grow.
The pictures of the graduates of Martin Luther College and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary are part of this issue (pp. ??-??). Like the trees, they did not suddenly appear as graduates ready to serve our churches and schools. Once they were little saplings—perhaps a little awkward and weak—babes who were baptized and brought to faith and life by the Holy Spirit. God placed them in Christian families, and they grew. Yes, by Word and sacrament, they learned to treasure their Lord Jesus.
I remember my own early growth—a little sapling in grade school always interested in my studies and especially what I was learning about Jesus. I grew to appreciate my pastors and sought ways to imitate them. I remember “playing” church. I was part of a junior choir, and we had choir gowns we brought home until we needed them in church. I made use of mine at home by pretending to be a pastor and leading a church service with my family. My mother always announced at the end of our little game that there would be an ice cream social after the service.
My pastors encouraged me to grow, and he bent this young sapling in the direction of becoming a pastor. The journey wasn’t a straight line to the seminary any more than it is for almost anyone else. Ups, downs, doubts, and certainty—often repeated over the years—became the rings of growth one can see in any tree. Turning from the little sapling to a mature tree took time. Grade school, high school, college, and seminary are measured in years, not hours, days, or months.
As you look at the pictures of the graduates this year, thank God for their growth. They are ready to serve. And remember they will not stop growing at graduation and after their assignments to their first years of service. The next years will bring experiences that become additional rings of growth for them as trees that provide the shade of the gospel for young and old.
Remember also that the need for full-time workers in the Lord’s church does not end with these graduates. Jesus reminded us, “ ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field’ ” (Matthew 9:37,38).
So we all have a task: pray for workers. In addition, we can encourage those we think have the gifts and inclination to be pastors and teachers. Parents, grandparents, teachers, pastors, and every member of God’s church can look for and encourage the little trees. Then depend on the Lord to grow them to serve him in public ministry. It takes time to grow pastors and teachers, but it starts early with prayer and encouragement.
John Braun is executive editor of the Forward in Christ magazine.
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Author: John A. Braun
Volume 105, Number 7
Issue: July 2018
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